The Cornerstones of Curb Appeal
Wait! Before you pull the car in your driveway, stop for a moment and study the place. The old adage about art could apply to curb appeal — we know it when we see it. What’s the verdict? Does your home have it? Getting curb appeal is largely a matter of elbow grease, and words won’t get the work done. That said, it sometimes pays to pause and remember the fundamentals that underlie the most appealing front yards.
“The most enormous thing in the garden is your house…”
– Leslie Land
The elephant in the landscape
The late Leslie Land, author and longtime gardening columnist for the New York Times, set out the foremost rule of landscaping for curb appeal: Remember the house. As Land once told Better Homes & Gardens, “Rule No. 1, and the one that I see ignored a lot, is that — far and away — the most enormous thing in the garden is your house. … You have this enormous design limitation, and you need to design for curb appeal based on the size and shape of your house and how it relates to the street.” From the colors and kinds of flowers and shrubs, to the size and style of elements such as fountains and arches, that elephant in the yard should be a determining factor.
Beyond Leslie Land’s No. 1 rule, useful guidelines include:
More is better
A few flowers planted here and a couple of coleus there won’t have much impact from the street. For landscaping that reads from a distance, think of beds that mass flowers and groupings that combine plants of varying heights.
But there is such a thing as too much
At a certain point, vines grow from charming to out of control, and shrubs can become behemoths that might haunt a person’s dreams. Shape, prune and, if necessary, remove. No one is obligated to live forever with a landscaping mistake.
As a result, before adding anything to your front yard landscaping, do your research. Figure out which plants and trees thrive in your area, while also learning which species tend to grow out of control. If at all possible, avoid the plants that tend to overgrow in your region because this can reduce your workload. It’s also a good idea to map out where you will plant everything ahead of time and know how large the trees will be. That way, you can avoid placing too big of a plant in an area where it will eventually become cumbersome.
Have a plan
There’s likely no need for architect-like detail, and any plan is better than none. Avoid wasted work and costly mistakes by sketching the yard as it is and as you would like it to be. Seeing it all on paper can help focus your efforts as you make changes.
One of the best examples of the gardener’s art is a landscape that appeals year-round. With that in mind, envision your yard over a full 12 months. Come a frigid stretch or a hot, dry spell, what will add interest?
A curb appeal quiz
Answering these questions will point you in the right direction when improving curb appeal
- From the street, can you see a clear path to the porch? If not, it might be time to do some trimming or to remove sprawling shrubs.
- Assess lighting at dusk. Is the path clearly lit? Replace burned out, broken or tipped over landscaping lights.
- Do you have a special feature to highlight, such as a stone pillar or fountain? Give it a low-voltage or solar spotlight.
- What’s missing from the porch? Boost color and texture with potted plants and hanging baskets. Hang a wreath to spruce up a lackluster front door. For an awkward empty space, consider adding a bench.
- How’s the mailbox looking these days? Is it time for a new one or a fresh coat of paint? Does it look lonely, in need of plantings or a sturdier post?
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